Crankworx Whistler is always full of surprises. This year, BMX legend Alan Cooke won the whip-offs, a music video won Dirt Diaries, and Specialized released a brand new Enduro. We're talking about Crankworx 2017, by the way. I specify because it was almost exactly a year ago that the last brand new Enduro was released. But Specialized saw how quickly geometry trends were evolving, and they sensed the need to respond just as quickly. Though it was surprising to see an update so soon, the update itself is no surprise. The new Enduro got longer, lower, and slacker. But there's more to it than that.
It depends on which size frame and wheel we're talking about, but the Enduro gained anywhere between 5 and 19 millimeters in the reach department. The stack got an adjustment too, but exactly how depends on wheel size. The goal was to get the cockpit of the two bikes to feel more similar. Because of the larger wheel, the Enduro 29 naturally has a taller stack height, but its new incarnation got a few millimeters added to its bottom bracket height and a few more sliced off its head tube. Conversely, this year's Enduro 27.5 still offers 10 millimeters more travel than its bigger-wheeled sibling, plus it got a slightly taller head tube. Across the board, the difference in stack was decreased by around 10 millimeters, which is roughly half what it was last year.
So the enduros are longer, we’ve got that covered, but I also mentioned lower and slacker. That part is up to you thanks to Specialized's new adjustable geometry. The shock extension link on the new 2018 Enduro is essentially shorter, but includes a spacer at the base of the shock stanchion that will bump them out to the same length we're used to. Remove the spacer, and you'll lower the bottom bracket by eight millimeters and slacken the head angle by a half degree. This method is considerably less convenient to execute than traditional flip chips, so you'll probably pick one and leave it. If you're happy with your 2017 Enduro, but you've got flip-chip FOMO, you can purchase the new adjustable shock extension for your still-not-outdated Enduro.
If you've ever ridden a BMX, dirt jumper, slopestyle, or any dedicated gravity bike, you know that the lower you set your seat, the higher you'll angle its nose. When you happen to need to weight the saddle while on a descent, you'll contact the saddle's entire surface instead of just the back edge. Likewise, when you're sitting at the top of a run, it just fits better. Also, it looks better. Maybe it's how the saddle angle matches that of the top tube. Or maybe we're just conditioned to associate sloping saddles with radness. Until now, it wasn't practical to apply it to our trail bikes.
Enter the Command Post Wu. As you drop the post, the saddle angles progressively back until it rests 14 degrees slacker at the low point. It's a remarkable concept, and it works precisely as it was intended. But it's not without its drawbacks. The mechanism stacks nearly 100 millimeters of hardware from base to rails compared to the 55 – 65 millimeters of popular traditional posts. And it only telescopes 115 millimeters, though the back of the saddle drops a full 150. It shares the reliable mechanical locking mechanism of Command Posts we're used to, with ratcheting adjustment until you reach the very bottom 25 millimeters.
I saddled up, or, rather saddled down for some runs in the park to see how it all added up. I was on the flagship S-Works model, held up by luxurious Ohlins front and rear suspension. The park was angry that day, like an old man trying to send back soup at a deli. The last days of a dry Crankworx made for some rough braking bumps and required some careful shock tuning. I ended up deepening the rear sag to take the extra abuse, and to my surprise it came at little or no sacrifice to the playfulness I've always liked about the Enduro 29. Up front, the unprecedented 3 Chamber air spring allowed me to independently control bottom-out resistance and small bump sensitivity without the need for air volume spacers. I found my proper setup in real-time on a single ride, something not easy to do in blown-out conditions.
But you'd have to pony up $8500 for all those features, and the important updates to the 2018 Enduro stretched across the whole lineup. I rode the 2017 Enduro Comp at last year's Bible, and at the time it didn't feel outdated. But in the short 10 months since, I’ve ridden three bikes that are even longer than the newly-lengthened Enduro, and even more when comparing the XL sizes. That’s not to say that Specialized didn’t go far enough. They actually may have gotten it just right. Aside from a few outliers, the lengthening trend has settled down, and the new Enduro is nestled just about in the middle of the pack. It was roomy, but it didn’t challenge my notions of proper fit like the Transition Sentinel or the new Giant Reign. The relatively conservative cockpit suited the Enduro’s capability as a “normal” trail bike, especially in the 29-inch version.
Which brings me to my favorite update, the geometry adjustability. After riding big-wheel brawlers like the Evil Wreckoning, Orbea Rallon, and Trek Slash, the Enduro seemed almost tame by comparison. The slack setting allows you to set this year’s model closer to the often mentioned “mini downhill bike” category. I welcomed it on the weather-worn trails of Whistler in late summer.
The seatpost update is likely to be more divisive. Even though the Command Post Wu technically does only telescopes 115 millimeters, it is fair to call it a 150. It feels like a 150. But I’m used to the 170-millimeter droppers seen on so many XL, large, and even medium-sized bikes. Its angle did feel much more natural when I was on the bike, and looked much more moto when I was off it, but if you’re riding a size that could fit a deeper dropper, it’s up to you to decide if that’s worth the extra inch.
Everything else I love about the Enduro stayed the same. The chainstays are still short and the seat angle is still steep. There’s still the SWAT door and an updated steerer-tube-stashed multi-tool and chain tool. It’s still an all-around backcountry destroyer. The Enduro is still the Enduro, only a little more Enduro-er.